The value of long-term control
Which brings us to the part about how contracts factor into these rankings.
Betts has two years of arbitration remaining, tied with Trout for the fewest years of control among those in the top-10 on this list. Betts fell just shy of setting a record for first-year arbitration eligible players with his $10.5 million salary for 2018. He’ll earn much more over the next two years and could enter unprecedented territory if he goes on to earn himself an MVP award.
Betts will get expensive in a hurry. After the 2020 season he’ll either cash in with a huge payday from the Red Sox or bolt to another team who will back up the Brinks truck for him. This uncertainty is what dampens his trade value.
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Compare that to Judge, who is making near the league minimum this year and won’t hit free agency until 2022. Betts is the better player yet those two extra years of control for Judge increases his value to the Yankees.
That explains why Lindor is second on the list. I mentioned the reasons to question why Lindor has a higher five-year projection. Even if you feel Betts will continue to be the better player, it’s still fairly close. Too close not to favor the extra year of control Lindor has.
The same goes for Correa. His 31.8 five-year WAR projects him for about half a win less than Betts per season, which he’ll easily make up with an extra year of control.
That being said, there’s not a chance that the Red Sox would consider trading Betts straight up for any of those three. Mookie may only have two years of control left but Boston isn’t going to let him walk away. The team with MLB’s highest payroll will shell out whatever it takes to keep a generational talent like Betts. However, when Betts earns his mega-contract it will immediately cause his trade value to plummet. Boston can afford that type of contract. Most other teams can’t, which has to be taken into account when determining trade value.